The concern for machines to replace humans, taking their jobs and making them functionally obsolete, is nothing new. Workers have worried about it for centuries, starting with the Industrial Revolution and the rise of inventions like the sawmill and the spinning jenny.
Advocates for workers would argue innovative machines like these were invented solely to replace jobs previously done by humans – and there is some accuracy to these claims. The spinning jenny, for instance, was built to increase the efficiency of weaving fabric, reducing the number of workers needed to maximize mill owners’ investments.
However, while textile machines did displace some laborers, the overall effect of the industrial revolution was quite different: increased technology and machinery ultimately led to more jobs, not less.
Machines have often supplanted human labor and, to some extent, always will. But in the future, to what extent will we be able to provide quality job opportunities for humans as automation technology advances?
The Rise of Automation
Technology often aims to simplify tasks; the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) and decrease in human worker involvement means consistently high production rates, no need for downtime or rest, and an expanding variety of capabilities. Some experts are predicting robots will eventually outperform humans at virtually any task, potentially taking over the majority of human-held jobs within the next 30 years.
AI, robotics, and automation are poised to usurp the world’s economy; in large part, current technology has largely already done so. Researchers at Oxford University estimate within the next 20 years, 47% of current jobs could be fully automated; the International Labor Organization (ILO) predicts these changes could bring about global unemployment of 11 million by as soon as 2020.
Originally attempted in the 1980s, “lights out” manufacturing was conceived to allow machines in Detroit to work at all hours, building cars without the presence of human workers. While technology was not ready to accommodate this system 30 years ago, today’s robotic systems are coming closer to achieving the same goal.
But even with these advances, it is unlikely that people will ever be completely eliminated from the picture. Advanced automation systems are not practical for small or medium businesses; these shops mostly still rely on human workers for the majority of production work.
Even with the most sophisticated automated systems, people are still necessary to provide maintenance and service to systems, or to offer a human touch for hand-operated manufacturing or final part inspections.
The New Generation
While scientists attempt to predict the future of automation, a new generation of automated equipment is already being developed. Aware of the discomfort some workers feel regarding the idea of machines replacing people, many innovative automated solutions are being built to work with people rather than in place of people.
Robots are being designed to hold tools, carry parts, and perform other tasks side-by-side with human workers, with the goal of adding as much speed and flexibility to the process as possible. While industrial robots are constantly improving, they are still often more expensive than hiring a worker — and human experts are required to install, operate, and service machine components to make sure automated systems are set up to run safely and effectively.
Besides adding efficiency, robots are increasingly utilized to protect humans from unsafe work environments. Robotic equipment performs tasks in areas with toxic chemicals, hazardous material handling, and more.
Automation Technology from Arnold Machine
While the ultimate effect on human workers remains unknown, automation will definitely play a central role in the future of manufacturing. To stay ahead, you need a partner with experience and expertise in the latest technology.
Arnold Machine Inc. (AMI) can design and assemble automation systems to suit any customer need, with capabilities such as mechanical and electrical engineering, machining, fabrication, finishing, assembly, and programming. Our past automation equipment projects have included:
- Assembly equipment
- Automated conveyor systems
- Programmable automation controllers
- Fence post automation systems
- Dispensing systems
- Automated inspection systems
- Automated spray equipment
- Motion control & drive systems
- Pick and place machines
- Robotic welding systems
We manufacture turnkey solutions that are built, programmed, and installed to fulfill your exact specifications.